Meghana Jayam

At the time of interview, Meghana was a student at the University of Pennsylvania and had recently interned at the Boston Consulting Group. 

At the time of interview, Meghana was a student at the University of Pennsylvania and had recently interned at the Boston Consulting Group. 

1. In layman's terms explain what you do.

I am currently at the University of Pennsylvania in a dual degree program called the Jerome Fisher Program in Management Technology. It is a program where you can get a degree in engineering from the engineering school and one in economics from the Wharton Business School. On the engineering side, I am doing computer science with a math minor. On the business side, I am doing Finance and a concentration I created called analytical management that combines management and statistics.

I spent last summer as at BCG as a management consultant. When big companies have problems but don’t have the expertise to fix them, they come to a place like BCG for help. Some consultants might have experience tackling something like it, and they are able to help fix those problems. I was part of the private equity team, so I was doing this kind of work for private equity firms.

2. Why did you choose to go into STEM?

It was never so much a choice, it was always what I wanted to do. I don’t remember ever wondering if I should do STEM or say become a journalist! I loved math, I was really drawn in by the creative problem-solving aspects of STEM.

3. What drew you to business?

I first got into business because a lot of times life ends up being about selling yourself or a product you’re making. Regardless of what I end up doing, I think is so important to have business skills to really succeed. For example, in the engineering world, you need to be able to market a product, identify who my market is and who my competition is. That sort of competitive analysis is actually so important for making any sort of life decision for me!

4. What is your favorite aspect of your previous internship? What about school?

At BCG, I really loved working with the people! Everyone was so intellectually curious and so excited to get to work. It is very fast paced, there is something new happening every 15 minutes. It was so exciting and I enjoyed working in an environment with that kind of energy.

At school, the people I have surrounded myself with are so high achieving and interesting. They all take such diverse and fascinating classes are involved in a lot of cool extracurriculars. I think I learn a lot from them, and they push me to be my best self.

5. What are the most challenging aspects of work and school?

When I first started my internship last summer, I was the only intern, the only person below the age of 26 and one of the only women. By the end of the summer, there were other college associates, but starting out was kind of daunting. I think at first asserting myself was quite difficult, but by the end of the summer, I had learned how to make my voice and ideas heard.

At school, the hardest thing is managing my time. This was something that was difficult in high school and does not get easier at college. There are so many things to do between my academics and my social life. There are so many things to balance and it can be difficult to separate how I feel about something affect how I perform in the rest of my life.

6. What roadblocks have you faced on your path to where you are today?

When I first started college, I had not chosen whether I should go down a computational engineering or computational biology track. This meant I did not start my computer science coursework until my second semester. I felt like I was behind my peers, who were all going into tech internships with big companies, and that I had to work a little extra to get interviews and stand out. Looking back, it was a blessing in disguise as I really enjoyed my role in a VC firm in my first summer, that might not have applied for.  I ended up getting a tech internship in my second year. Looking back, it was not that big of a deal, but to my freshman and sophomore self it felt like the end of the world!

7. What has been your greatest achievement in your career so far?

My career hasn’t even started yet! I think life is full of a lot of small achievements, you have to see all the little wins. I am really proud of myself for having taking risks and trying new things. Going into computer science was a risk for me, so was consulting. I think both of them have paid off!

8. What do you believe is the most important thing for girls to know before pursuing STEM?

I think sometimes you just need to tune other people out, and doing you. Ask questions that are on your mind, go to office hours, cold call people you don’t know for internships. People are often waiting there to help you, you just need to ask. Don’t ever question what another person might think about you because you put yourself out there and asked for help.

9. How do you think your field will change in the next 10 years?

I think strategy, management, and leadership are going to become a lot more diverse in the next ten years. Right now, less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female. I am sure that number will drive up in the next 10 years. I hope that we’ll be seeing more racial diversity as well. I think the generation going into management right now is a lot more diverse than previous generations.

10. What problem would you like to see solved by STEM in the next 10 years?

I would like to see medicine become more affordable and a more evenly distributed across the socioeconomic spectrum. The fact that a lot of research has been conducted and a lot of progress has been made, but that it is not available to those who really need it is appalling. I really hope that we can address this in the next decade.

11. What motivates you?

The fact that there are so many unsolved problems in the world! There is so much to do in the world! I think so far, we as humans have only scratched the surface of what we can discover and what we can do. I’m not trying to cure cancer or bring about world peace but I think that intellectual curiosity drives me!

12. How do you define success?

I feel successful when I am internally satisfied that I did everything in my control to do my best. I know my best isn’t somebody else’s best, so I try not to judge myself against other people.

13. What one discovery in science do you most admire and why?

I find gene mapping and editing such incredible discoveries. It is amazing to think that in the near future we will be able to predict what genetic ailments we are going to have and perhaps prevent them from occurring. I think being able to see what genes cause what will help us find ways to curing some neurodegenerative diseases too.

14. What is the best piece of advice you have received?

This comes from my Dad. He tells me every day that it is really important to work towards being in the right place at the right time because that’s when miracles happen. You can work hard and put yourself in the right place, but the right time is something that isn’t under your control, it just has to come. Getting to the right place entails working hard, doing your duty and doing your best. I took that literally and tried to put myself in the right place by going to a prep school, and then putting myself at U Penn. When the right time comes, good things happen.

15. If you could go back in time what advice would you give your high school self?

Breathe. Maybe pick up meditation or something that calms your mind down. In high school, it can feel like everything is going at 100 miles per hour, and you have to juggle family and friends and homework and college apps. It can get overwhelming. Sometimes you just have to take a step back, and be proud of yourself! You need moments where you can just relax and not worry about what more you could be doing. Without them, you’ll crash and burn out.

16. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be successful in the intersection between management and computer science?

  • Resourcefulness
  • Persistence
  • Creativity

17. How would you say your gender has impacted your experience in STEM and business?

You don’t see many women on both the management and the computer science side. A lot of mentors and role models do end up being men. It isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes I am much more comfortable to approach women in industry with questions, concerns, and advice. I think this has forced me to be comfortable with approaching people, I may not have normally approached. 

18. What are you involved in other than STEM?

My biggest commitment in college is a comedy troupe I perform in. It has definitely been one of my best decisions at college! In terms of career aspirations, I’m pretty different to my friends in the troupe. Most of them are going into entertainment, and want to be writers. I think it has been so enriching, as I get to work the creative side of my brain. Being able to laugh, getting on a stage and writing satire and musical parodies has been so fun, and made me a lot more confident.

Shreya PatelComment